Jun 28 2012
Landmark Day for Official Opening of Dualla NS
Friday, June 15th was a day that will be forever etched in the illustrious history of Dualla NS. The School Community worked religiously behind the scenes for many months prior to the ‘Big Day’. This involved huge sacrifices on the part of many and the sense of community spirit was very evident on the day. People came from all over the world to celebrate this unique occasion with us. Former pupils, Past Teachers and Principals, Former Board of Management Members & Chairpersons and many Parishioners with strong links to the school all returned in unison to reminisce on the past and to admire the new and modern Learning Environment that the new school now provides. The poor weather conditions did not deter our many guests, many of whom travelled significant distances to be with us. Nothing was going to impact on our Special Day. It was a day of friendship, rejoicing and thanks. It was a landmark day in the history of education in our parish.
Dualla NS welcomed its first pupils to the school in May 1861. We moved into our new school on June 13th, 2011 which was exactly 150 years after the first children entered the school. Throughout the history of the school, the sense of community spirit & generosity have been forever entwined in the very fabric of our existence. Our fundraising effort secured one quarter of the necessary finance to fund this ambitious project. Our Board of Management applied successfully for a Grant under the Devolved Grant Scheme, which guaranteed the remaining three quarters of finance required. When the new school was being built, we relocated to the Parish Hall across the road. Thanks to our school community, we succeeded in turning this old building into a school for the year. The children really loved their new home. They enjoyed eating their lunch outside on the benches, playing tennis in the tennis courts and even the odd ‘cooking class’ with our Comenius Teacher Anita! The staff enjoyed having a kitchen for the first time ever and we even had an office! It was symbolic that we found ourselves in the Parish Hall for the year. The Parish Hall housed many of our former Principals over the years including Andy Finn, James Sheridan and more recently Liam Ó Duibhir, so it was appropriate that we spent the 2010/2011 school year in a building that has so many nice links to our proud past.
On the day of the Official Opening, we allowed the children to have a “Lie in!” and rewarded them for their good behaviour with an 11.30a.m. start! The later starting time gave the boys sufficient time to get their hair done! Our former pupil and Munster and Irish Rugby star Denis Leamy had dropped into the school around 11.00a.m. to wish the children well for their “Big Day”. When the children arrived into school, they were summoned to the Junior Classroom and much to their great surprise; they were greeted by Denis Leamy. Denis thanked them for their loyalty and support during his playing career and he presented a signed Munster Jersey to 1st Class pupil Sinead Kennedy. The next item on our Agenda was the Creation of a Time Capsule. The children from both classrooms put things that had special significance for them into our Time Capsule. Some items put into the Time Capsule included a Confirmation Scrapbook, The Official Opening Booklet, Sir’s Speech Cards (Far too many!!), Junior Room News Stories, Sliotar, School Newsletter, Alive O Religion Book along with many other items. 2nd Class pupil Ciara Gahan was given the job of locking the Time Capsule. The objective would be to open it again in maybe fifty years time on the next significant milestone day for the school.
Our many guests started to arrive from around midday onwards. As the official starting time of 1pm approached, the weather began to deteriorate. Our Sound Engineer for the day Eamon Quinlan had many challenges to contend with on the day as we were waiting until the very last minute before deciding on an inside/outside location for the School Blessing. To his great credit, Eamon remained calm throughout and catered for our every need in this department on the day. Our original plan had been to have the School Blessing outside but the poor weather dictated that the blessing would now take place inside. Our excellent MC Rosie Gahan stamped her authority on proceedings and the children then put our contingency plan into place and formed an orderly Guard of Honour along the main school corridor! Our guests then began to filter out of the classrooms and we had our Official Blessing in the school’s entrance hall. Having the Blessing inside actually enhanced things and added to the intimacy of the day. After the Prayers of the Faithful and Readings, the school was blessed by our local parish priests V. Rev. Joe Egan, P.P. and Rev. Peter Brennan, C.C. We then moved outside and took great pride in witnessing youngest pupil in the school Kathlyn Lahart and one of our oldest past pupils Michael O’ Connor cut the ribbon to officially open our new school. Soon after, Sr. Margaret Finn and another of our oldest former pupils Michael Heffernan then unveiled our school’s new plaque much to the delight and cheers of the large gathering.
We then moved inside into Classroom 2 for some more formalities. Fr. Brennan commenced proceedings and thanked everybody for making such an effort to be there with us for our special day. He referenced the strong emphasis the school community places on the links between the past and present. Engineer and Project Manager John Brennan of ABN Midlands was next to speak. From a consultant’s perspective, ABN’s John Brennan described the staff of Dualla NS as being “extremely easy clients to gain instruction from”. He highlighted the “determination and pragmatism” of the Dualla NS Board of Management as crucial ingredients to the success of this project. John concluded by praising the Board of Management for having the “vision and courage to aspire to designing a building that would meet the medium and long term needs of the school”. School Principal John Manley was the next speaker. Mr. Manley began by referencing some of the school’s illustrious history. He spoke with great pride of how the school community placed such significant emphasis on the virtues of generosity and goodwill. John proceeded to welcome some very important guests. He spoke of his great pleasure at meeting the daughters of former principal Andy Finn; Sr. Margaret and Sr. De Pezzi. He welcomed the family of Michael Sheridan. Michael is a son of former Principal James Sheridan. John Manley also acknowledged the significant contribution that his predecessor Liam Ó Duibhir had made to school life in Dualla. The Builder John Ryan Con and Engineer John Brennan ABN Midlands were acknowledged for their commitment to the project. The “meticulous” approach of Engineer John Brennan was also lauded. The Parents Association received great praise for being “vibrant, consistent, loyal and creative”. The contribution of the 2007-2011 Board of Management and Parish Committee was then highlighted. Mr. Manley spoke of the “unique skill sets & unique talents” that the individual Board Members had brought to the project. He spoke of the immense gratitude the school felt at being “the beneficiaries of Parish funds” as part of the fundraising process. The Official Opening Committee were next to be commended for the large chunks of their spare time that they had devoted to the project. Joan Kennedy was then acknowledged for the attention to detail she had exhibited in designing the Official Opening Booklet. Mr. Manley then thanked Joan Kennedy and Ann Hughes for preparing the singing and Irish Dancers. Fr. Joe Egan and Fr. Brennan were then recognised for the “immense contributions” they had made to the school. Sacristan Kathleen O’ Donnell and Caretaker Tom O’ Donnell also received a notable mention for the positive impact they have made to school life in Dualla NS. Staff Members Mary McElligott and Ann Marie Devane were next to be commended by the Principal. Ms. McElligott’s creative talents were espoused and Ann Marie was acknowledged as somebody who “immerses herself in all aspects of community life”. Mr. Manley reserved the greatest praise for the children of the school; “Like their ancestors before them, are people of the very highest calibre”.
Fr. Joe Egan concluded the speeches in his own inimitable way. He acknowledged the help of all those from the past and present who had contributed to the project in any way. Along with some of the other notable events in the parish over the years, Fr. Joe suggested that the Opening of a School supersedes everything else in a Parish. He talked of how the opening of a new school “opens up vistas and journeys for future generations”. Fr. Joe referenced the special impact a school has on “formation of character, teaching of truth, learning of justice and living out the Christian love”. He signed off by saluting the past and present that make up the School Community.
We were then treated to some beautiful singing by the children. Songs such as ‘My God’, ‘Let It Be’ and ‘May the Road Rise to Meet You’ were belted out with great gusto and pride. The Student Entertainment concluded with a Riverdance – Like Irish Dancing performance from sisters Jennifer & Hannah Hughes alongside Leah Ryan. They held the captivated audience in the very palm of their hands.
Our evening concluded with an informal gathering in the school. One of our parents Michael Brosnan kindly loaned us a marquee for the evening. On the day before the Opening, we had gone swimming only to return to the school to find the marquee had been blown down to our pitch! Needless to say, On Friday evening we were thankful it was still in situ for our Evening Barbecue! We were treated to some delicious food and light refreshments. The children had their faces painted and soon the school was full of people who looked like cats, tigers, dogs, etc.!! This was arguably the best part of what was a momentous day for all associated with the school. It afforded us the opportunity to sit back and reflect on what had been an extraordinary day and an exceptional couple of years. We rejoiced in soaking up the wonderful atmosphere and the enjoyment of each other’s company. As is the Dualla way however, nobody was losing the run of themselves and things wrapped up around 10.30p.m. For the children & staff, it was “back to school on Monday”. It was a day that we spent the best part of three years preparing for. Now that it has passed, we would love to do it all over again! (Maybe Just the Official Opening Part though!!). For those fortunate to be there, the day merged the illustrious history of the past with the creative talents of the present. The Board of Management of the School could only but marvel that all the dreams and aspirations of the School Community had finally been realised. A Milestone Day indeed. Míle buíochas.